trees and stones

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What a breath of fresh air, literally, it is to get out of the city and head to the mountain! We left, with a bag packed with snacks and not much of a plan, only to head to the woods. We all miss it, not just me.

Ever since we moved to Lisbon, I want to move out, and I think, we all do. In fact the only reason we decided to rent this flat is my lack of driving license, which is frustrating me a lot! I did try, but failed my test and with a few unfortunate events, couldn’t set the exam again, and now I must start all over again in Portugal…

I have been wanting to write about Lisbon, but it’s hard to talk about it “publicly”, mainly because it hasn’t been a very positive experience. It’s not been really that bad, but  when your heart is not in it and what you want is a another kind of life, it just gets a bit difficult, especially as our days would look a bit different if only I had passed that bloody driving test!

The first month was very good, we had friends and family visiting and we had just moved; then Paul started work, and things went bad and some days I feel quite sad for being “stuck” in the city, with not even a garden to get my hands dirty… other days we really enjoy! Making new friends, finding the wilder spaces in a not so wild city, making use of the culture available and getting out as much as possible. There has been plenty of hot beach days too, which is very good indeed!

Back to today, we picked wild carrot (I hope Cat was with us so that she could tell us for sure), as it’s for dyeing I’m not terribly bothered about it’s identification, but it would be nice to know! I’ve been seeing this plant a lot when we go out of the city and was glad to gather some today. Also spotted the first Saint Jonh’s wort since leaving Lousã. The picture is not properly focused, but the battery of my camera died after this one taking this photo, but I wanted to document it anyway. Unfortunately we didn’t gather any, not even for my daughter’s “bouquet”  as there was only one plant, I will keep my eyes peeled for more.

 

Orange trees

spring (3)Before I took this picture, I was made to stop by the smell of springtime of my childhood! I grew up in the Algarve, in a house surrounded by orange trees. As you probably can imagine the smell of a flowering orange tree is quite intense, even if it’s only a few trees in the center of a big city! I could smelled them before I realized what kind of tree I was passing by.

How does one explains the smell of a flowering orange tree, or the feeling of a warm summer night looking at the stars? On these moments I feel the wonder, that after so many years of planning, we’re really living here! Sometimes, well, maybe most of the time, the daily routine takes over and I just go along with it… cooking, doing the laundry, bed times, etc, in many ways these are the same as they were: we still need nourishing food, sleep and washed clothes to wear. But then on these apparently, small moments, it downs on me that we made a dream come true, well, at least part of it, the other part will soon come!

Spring

spring (1)spring (12)spring (14)spring (16)spring (18)spring (23)spring (24)spring (32)spring (37)spring (46)spring (48)spring (50)spring (52)This area of Portugal is dominated by non-native trees, acacia and eucalyptus mainly, which do not loose their leaves in winter, one must look closely to see oaks, sweet chestnuts and other deciduous trees doted here and there, but in general, winter is a green season. On lower ground too, because of the mild temperatures some plants survive all winter therefore the ground is never bare.

I remember this time of the year in Scotland, so much promise on the first buds of the trees, the weeds and bulbs braving the temperatures and the ground starting to turn from brown to green. The excitement of the first (and second and third!) helpings of wild garlic and soon after nettles.

Nevertheless, Spring in Portugal still feels like the Earth is awaking, which it kind of surprised me, eleven years without experiencing this is a long time and back then I didn’t have as much awareness as I do now. Since the Earth around me never lost its greenery, I didn’t expect this feeling, but for a few weeks now everything is so much alive! Whereas in Scotland we get a burst of green, here we get a burst of color.The acacias turned to flower leaving some parts of the landscape in a greenish/yellowish colo, the fields planted with mainly cabbage and turnip grow their flowers, turning the fields and kitchen gardens into stripes of white and yellow. As we walk or drive throw these roads, my eyes are caught by the sight of the flowering fruit trees, in full bloom of white and pink. The animal kingdom too, contributes to this awakening, especially the birds, bugs and butterflies.

a gathered holiday tree

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On Sunday we went for a walk to gather materials for our Christmas tree. Last year we made it like this and the children wanted to do the same this year, but there are no holes in the house from which to hang it like that. While looking at a craft book we came across the idea of a pyramid made with sticks for a table center piece, and we all agreed if we made it bigger it would make a great holiday tree.To me It’s a beautiful tradition we are creating, the making of our tree, and it warms my heart to know that, they too, prefer to make one than to buy.

The tree itself is made with fallen sticks, mainly of acacia (there are loads of acacias here, it’s nearly or maybe worse than eucalyptus), and then we picked a few other bits to wind around the main sticks. It has ivy, maple, pine, cypress, more acacia and other bits that I can’t identify. I really like that is made from a variety of plants around us rather than just one specie.

We also made a new advent calendar. I usually come up with the ideas myself, but this year we all contributed to it. We mixed the papers (except special days like Solstice or Christmas eve), and then hang them up, that way no one knows exactly what the activity for the day is and is a surprise for us all.

these days

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It’s nearly three months since we left Scotland. We had a rough plan for the following months, but things aren’t going accordingly to plan, of course they aren’t!

So much has happen in this time that it has been hard to sit down, wrap my head around it all and write about it. We planned to do much more travel around Portugal, we planned to live in a 5 mt tent (with a wood-stove) for a few months, build an outdoor kitchen and a compost toilet, meanwhile we would research and even maybe start making a living with a food trailer. Instead, we’re living in a wee rented house, we’ve bought a car and have a full time job.Ah!

To write it like that makes it all sound so simple… But it doesn’t describe the help we’ve had from new friends and strangers, the head banging against Portuguese bureaucracy, the despair of being stolen money and our only working bank card and to have a broken car all in the same weekend, plus other things that I won’t bore you with… So even if things aren’t going the way we planned, life is good. The way I see it, is that this situation is a stepping stone, ever so close to that vision we have to the way we want to live. Is a slow crossing to get there, but mostly I’m ok with that.

This time spent so close as a family, has also been very good to learn a lot about ourselves, what we value as a whole and as individuals, and I believe these lessons will inform the kind of life we’ll create in the next few months and live in the next few years.

P.S.: For our friends and family in Scotland, YOU haven’t been forgotten! I think of you everyday and we often talk about all the loved ones we miss so very much!

P.S.S.: I feel that some of you might want to know if I’m still complaining about the cold.. and the short answer is sometimes! I know… But nights here can be very cold, especially in this old wee house. During the day is warmer outside, as you might guess, is where we spend most of the day.

shop update

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The post I have waited so long to do is finally here! After years of planning, years of trying to save and even more of actually saving, we are now ready to embark on a new adventure. I have wrote a little about it before. We’re chasing a wish, a dream and see what we can make of it and what opportunities come our way. Just now, we’re too much in the middle of it all to write more and there are too many things to organize and pack…

If you would like to help us and in return receive beautiful and useful Earth friendly things, go to my shop (I’ll keep updating it in the next few days, so please check often), and for one week only enter the code LighterPacking to receive a 10% discounted. This is valid until September 15th, after that the shop will close for a few weeks or months and I’m sorry to say, postage will be more expensive to the UK…

 

soap

Making the most of the electricity available while we’re in the flat to prepare these last batches of soap.

The one I like the most is the simple pure castile soap, made with only olive oil. This is the one I use most, it’s perfect for the children, although I use it as often, and it’s what I wash my hair with (and then raise with water and vinegar for conditioning). This time I made a batch with olive oil infused with calendula grown in the allotment, cornmeal for a little exfoliation and mint essential oil. The last batch, not pictured, is for washing up liquid (I use the recipe in Zero Waste Home) and Laundry powder, this soap is not superfatting (most handmade soap have around 15% to 5% of oil that is not turned into soap, that is superfatting). This way the soap is not too drying on the skin, but when you’re washing dishes or clothes, you don’t really want any more oil…).